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China has once again drawn criticism for its harsh measures against members of the crypto mining community after a 61-year old grandma was jailed for stealing electricity to mine Bitcoin. While the crime justifies some sort of penalty, the harsh punishment for the elderly lady was criticized by human rights advocates as efforts to further subdue and scare away the mining community.
The 61-year old Qiuping Tang was jailed for four months and fined 10,000 yuan (which roughly amounts to $1,500) for stealing electricity. A federal court in the Hebei Province of China made the decision and the lawsuit was filed by the Chinese power supply company Tangshan Power Supply Company. In the lawsuit, Tangshan Power Supply Company claimed that Tang stole $1,300 worth of electricity while mining Bitcoin between January and October 2018.
What’s astonishing is the fact that overall, Tang’s profits from mining were a mere $980. The electricity she stole for this mining cost roughly $1,300 and in total, Tang had to pay $3,600 in fines. On top of these fines, she was also jailed.
Bitcoin mining has been in the spotlight for a while now because of the fact that it costs a lot of power to mine the cryptocurrency. However, the extent of the power required to mine Bitcoin has been blown out of proportion by some misleading researches and incomplete data analysis.
Regardless of the amount of energy Bitcoin will require to function in the future, it remains true that electricity is 90 percent of the mining cost. This is why electricity theft for the purpose of mining has seen a sharp rise over the last couple of years; in Taiwan, for instance, another case was recorded when a Bitcoin miner stole electricity worth $3 million.
Authorities say Tang operated four Bitcoin mining rigs, including one regulator and one mobile device using stolen electricity. After getting arrested, Tang confessed to her crimes and reimbursed the electricity company. She also paid a fine to the Chinese State Treasury, paying more than $3,600 in total.
China has been clamping down on Bitcoin mining and amid stories of scams and power theft. Despite the country’s stern policy towards cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin mining remains a popular activity there. In April 2018, the police in the Chinese port city of Tianjin confiscated 600 Bitcoin mining computers in the largest case of power theft in recent years.
Stories like this are only going to further encourage legislation to curb the younger generation’s tendency to adopt and use global digital currencies that are not controlled by institutions and governments. Being the authoritative and controlling state that China is, they do not seem to like that idea.